Ihenacho’s Home Truths

It is absolutely disingenuous for Jerry Gana to deny that the action of The Patriots is called for. It is also pitiful for him to think that the initiative of the Patriots contradicts the constitution. This is patently false and annoyingly pitiful.
Monday, October 21, 2002

David Asonye Ihenacho


ften times there arise some individuals or groups that so hype their elitist inclinations and exclusivist worldviews that the general public tends to dismiss them as self-absorbed folks with only a nuisance value for their communities. Lawyers the world-over, are the ones most tempted with this kind of an elitist lifestyle. Many of them thrive in their self-inflicted repulsive hubris that tends to put a wedge between them and the rest of the society. Some lawyers appear to relish ascribing to their persons and groups qualities that inherently betray some annoying level of self-conceit, puffiness and arrogance. Perhaps these serve their profession that feeds on drama, bravado, eloquence and persuasion right. But being a part of their audience when they carry on with their arcane rituals of slapping and patting one another on the back with highfalutin words as "learned" "wise," "gentle men and ladies," etc., cannot but make you wonder whatever some of these lawyers may think the rest of humanity are doing with their own lives in their different careers. Probably striving to be unlearned, unwise and ungentle?

The same noxious feelings one gets listening to puffed up lawyers in the courtrooms seems present with the group of eminent Nigerians that goes by the name "The Patriots." Perhaps it is no coincidence that this group adverts to such an elitist name, and that their public persona tends to cause such an internal revulsion among some of us. Perhaps their appropriation of this sublime quality should have been expected and accepted by us since their core membership is drawn from the group of celebrity lawyers of Nigeria. In other words, the eminent lawyers of their rank brought into the naming of the group their courtroom theatrics. Hence they describe themselves as "The Patriots" exactly in the manner some lawyers describe themselves as the "learned gentle men and ladies" of the courts perhaps as opposed to the rest of the world that is unlearned in the law.

But notwithstanding the fact that "The Patriots" consisted of some of the best educated and perhaps most patriotic Nigeria has ever produced, they have over the years not gotten the full share of the respect they had craved and deserved from the generality of Nigerians despite the quality of their membership. Most Nigerians have often treated them as one of the thousands of the pressure groups in Nigeria that are constantly craving and vying for attention. Although this attitude seems largely unfair on these eminent and distinguished Nigerians, it is also understandable especially since they seem to appropriate to themselves a sublime quality that should have been earned either in a battlefield, independence struggles, or bequeathed posthumously in recognition of socio-political accomplishments. In actual fact, the true patriots of the Nigerian nation are people like the late Herbert Macauley, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Tafawa Balewa, Ahmadu Bello, Obafemi Awolowo, Mbonu Ojike, Michael Okpara, Aminu Kano, Nwafor Orizu, etc. The patriots of a nation are in fact her patriarchs who had sacrificed and distinguished themselves in the establishment of the nation and/or in her wars and political struggles. The patriots are in the same league as the founding fathers or the heroes of a nation.

I have always believed that part of the respectability problem of the self-described patriots of Nigeria arises from their prideful appropriation of this revered name for their group. Describing themselves as "The Patriots" tends to carry with it a baggage of snags as well as invite immediate cynicism on their activities. On hearing the name, you can always hear your mind revolting and questioning: "if you are "the patriots" what am I; the traitor?"

Whether the members of this group are aware of it or not, there is some residual implication and impression in the name 'the patriot' that tends to insist that to be a patriotic Nigerian one has to belong with The Patriots. This is because the group's appropriation of patriotism in Nigeria sports a terrible impression of exclusivity and private ownership of a collective patrimony. And this cannot be fair on Nigerians outside of the group. It hardly ever makes a good impression on people neither does it serve any good public relations purpose when a few people establish a club only to call it "The Patriots" in a nation of 120 million.

There is an element of "holier-than-thou" attitude involved with the adoption of the name "patriots" with the article "The" that indicates definitiveness. This cannot but indicate exclusivity. It seems a political equivalent of a group of religious people describing themselves as "The Saints" or "The Holy Ones." A club or a group in Christianity that claims to be that of the saints or the holy ones will always cause people to raise an eyebrow. This is because it is terribly strange and does not show any humility or down-to-earth-ness on the part of the claimers. The quality of a "patriot" is not usually what one grants to him or herself. It is usually the preserve of a community or society to fete somebody or a group with the title of "the patriots."

Notwithstanding the odious impression of the exclusive appropriation of patriotism, one fact no Nigerian can legitimately deny the members of this group is that they are a people who are usually very forthcoming and expressive with their views on the way forward for the nation. The members of this group command a whole lot of attention in their individual and collective selves. They truly belong to the cream of the Nigerian society, if there is anything like that. Members of The Patriots are in fact the people many Nigerians look up to and would always love to pay attention to in critical situations. Their voices carry a lot of weight. Even without their appropriating and brandishing of the seemingly prideful name, no Nigerian in my view can reasonably doubt their patriotism, their love for Nigeria and their dedication for her welfare since our nation's independence. They have always been there for Nigeria in good and bad times as well.

The members of The Patriots have done quite a lot to prop up and support the Nigerian nation either in the writing of the various constitutions of the nation or even in political arena as ministers and advisors to governments. In fact they are authentically "the patriots" in the originally sense of the word (patros) because they are indeed the living fathers of the present-day Nigeria. Perhaps if they had chosen the name "The Nigerian Elders," "The Statesmen" or adapted the name a little as in "Patriots Club," they could have done themselves and most Nigerians a world of good in the P.R. department that they badly need to get their messages across to the generality of Nigerians.

Since coming into existence as a group, the members of The Patriots have always managed to weigh in with their collective thoughts from time to time. They always manage to live above the fray, to be the voice of reason in a season of confusion, to be prophetic with the affairs of the nation and to serve as a refreshing voice of truth in the perennial bumper harvest of sycophancy that Nigeria has become over the years. When it appears that the generality of Nigerians are losing their heads, members of the patriots appear to be among the very few Nigerians able to keep theirs.

One cannot forget the intervention of The Patriots some years ago when the fanatical Shariah made its debut in the rural state of Zamfara from where it has been casting its spell all across Northern Nigeria. After a reflective study of the situation against the background of our secular constitution, The Patriots judged the Shariah implementation in the North to be incompatible with the constitution of Nigeria in its present state and irreconcilable with Nigeria's penal code. In fact they went ahead to caution against assigning youth corps members to the Shariah States as their safety would not be assured in view of the operation of non-constitutional religious laws in those places. By staking their ground against the Shariah implementation in Northern Nigeria, The Patriots served as a beacon of light for many Nigerians in a situation of terrible confusion and lack of political leadership.

I think The Patriots are light years wiser than those who gather to campaign for the president's second term of office as the so-called FEC members. The Patriots are asking everybody to be patriotic, to consider the overall good of the nation which may entail not pressing one's constitutional rights to their logical ends.

It is against this background that the Tuesday, October 15, 2002 intervention of The Patriots in this moment of great uncertainty and confusion in our national life must be viewed and appreciated. The Patriots are gradually carving a niche for themselves as a beacon of light and hope in a situation of national crisis and confusion. In their most recent intervention, the group claimed to "have watched with interest the on-going controversy over the initiation of impeachment proceedings against the president by certain members of the National Assembly." According to them, "it is obvious to us that this controversy has undoubtedly been complicated by the announcement of the president to stand for a second term." In a Solomonic effort to douse the flames of the overheated polity The Patriots decided to offer some advice and roadmap for the way forward to all the segments and sources that have been generating and exacerbating the crisis. Superficially speaking the intervention of The Patriots seemed fair, even-handed and measured.

First, after affirming the constitutional right and in fact obligation of the National Assembly to pursue the option of impeachment when the need arises, the group advised the legislature to suspend and drop all impeachment proceedings against President Obasanjo on two grounds: the next presidential election is due to be held about six months from now and, the political tension generated as a result of the public controversy over the impeachment is taking its toll on the public good. In view of these, The Patriots asked the National Assembly to end the impeachment process in the interest of the public and the unity of our nation.

Second, The Patriots appealed to the media to "treat the on-going controversy with greater sense of responsibility and maturity." According to them, "we consider that some sections of our press have displayed undue partisanship and even scant regard for truth in their treatment of the controversy."

Third, after recognizing and affirming the president's constitutional right to seek a second term of office The Patriots "suggested" to him to "reconsider his decision" to do so. They argued,

It is our considered view that in order to promote the objective of ensuring that no cultural, ethnic or linguistic group is accorded preferential treatment, we ought to develop a convention of ensuring that the top and most important political office in this nation goes round in a way that manifest our conviction that no particular ethnic, cultural or linguistic group is accorded preferential treatment over others. On this ground alone, the rotation of the office of president every fives years among the geopolitical zones is likely to be a more effective demonstration of the equality of the nationalities in each zone if no one person from a particular geopolitical group stays in the office for more than one term. This is why we consider that in the interest of peace and unity in Nigeria, Mr. President ought to reconsider his decision to stand for a second term. We very strongly suggest to him to make this gesture in the interest of national unity.

However, in a gesture that implied that The Patriots considered the onus of dousing the fire of the present crisis as well as the long-term stabilization of Nigeria as rested more on the shoulders of the legislature than with any other branch of the government, they made their final appeal to the legislature:

It is for this reason that we strongly suggest to the National Assembly and all the State Houses of Assembly as a matter of urgency and priority, to make necessary amendments to the constitution so as to ensure that in the interest of peace and unity in our country, the principle of rotation of the presidency among each of the geopolitical zones of the country is reflected in the constitution and that no one (including the present incumbent) is allowed to occupy the office for more than one term of five years.

Since this group of eminent Nigerians published their charter for resolving the present political standoff in our country, reactions that have trailed it have been quite intriguing. They have ranged from a near euphoric endorsement by the press, a tepid resignation to it by the legislature to a furious opposition by the president and the members of his executive. The varied reactions to this apparently patriotic proposal by the self-identified patriots are leading to a whole new questions on who is actually patriotic in Nigeria? Who wants to see the present crisis resolved, and who is interested in ensuring a healthy future for Nigeria? Whose interest is it that Nigeria is stabilized in fairness and justice?

All the while we have been chastising the Hausa-Fulani North for nourishing the notorious oligarchic culture that cultivates a chaotic Nigeria that ensures that they get all they crave for from the backdoor without an adequate scrutiny. Are we now on the verge of ushering in a new oligarchy in the Obasanjo administration that does not want Nigeria to be at peace and in unity? The way the Obasanjo clan has been reacting to the wonderful initiative of The Patriots tends to suggest that they are enjoying the present chaos in our nation. Perhaps they are benefiting from it.

First, the Nigerian press has been most deferential and supportive of the initiative of The Patriots. Newspapers like ThisDay, the Guardian, Vanguard, Champion, etc., have done a magnificent job of not only publicizing the initiative, but also providing beautiful commentaries on it. Going by the reaction of the press so far, it is safe to say that the Nigerian press wholeheartedly endorses The Patriots' initiative on resolving the present crisis and achieving political stability in Nigeria. They have been full of praises for the courage of The Patriots in coming out to tell the president and the members of the legislature what nearly every Nigerian believes to be the panacea of Nigeria's interminable political instability. The Guardians described The Patriots as "accomplished elders and statesmen" (Guardian, Oct 17). ThisDay published an article that described them as "the wisemen." ThisDay's article by one Oma Djebah entitled "The Return of the "Wisemen" sounded very much like a eulogy of The Patriots (ThisDay, Oct. 18). And this should be seen as the summary of the full endorsement of the press for the initiative.

Second, the legislative arm of the Nigerian government has gradually been coming along the line of embracing The Patriots' initiative. This seems understandable because The Patriots in a way endorsed the project of a single five-year term for the president and the governors as well as the amendment of the constitution all of which the legislature had become passionate about in the recent times. Pius Anyim, the Senate President, Umar Ghali Na'abba, the House Speaker had only a few days ago sent letters to the respective state Houses of Assembly urging them to act promptly on the amendments of the constitution so as to ensure a quick final work on it by the National Assembly. Also The Patriots understood and affirmed the constitutional rights of the legislature to pursue an impeachment when it deemed it necessary and auspicious. And they even went out of their way to encourage the general public to be patient with the legislators as they find a way to carry out their constitutional duty of oversight on the executive.

Notwithstanding all these, The Patriots are suggesting to the legislature to consider the larger interest of the public and the country and be patriotic enough to drop their bid to put more gasoline into the raging fire of Nigerian politics with their pursuit of an impeachment against the president. And the legislature seems to be very willing to listen and perhaps accept the suggestion and exhortation of The Patriots. According to a report in ThisDay (Oct 19), plans are under way by "some legislators to throw their full weight behind the proposal by The Patriots that the president, Chief Obasanjo, should reconsider his second term bid in the interest of peace and stability." Quoting Adamu Abdu Panda, House Committee Chairman on Inter-parliamentary Affairs, ThisDay claims, "some of the representatives are not averse to the initiatives of The Patriots" (ThisDay, Oct 19).

However, where The Patriots' initiative seems to have encountered a brick wall is with the president and the members of his executive. The way the latter have been reacting to the initiative seems to suggest that they may have an interest in maintaining the current situation of standoffishness and chaos in the Nigerian polity. How else can one explain their vehement opposition to the initiative other than to say that they may be gaining something we do not yet know in the present crisis in the polity?

The whole situation that gave rise to the initiative of The Patriots is all about fairness to the Nigerian nation and peoples. Like all patriotic Nigerians The Patriots are grappling with the problem of finding out what could help cool down the overheated Nigerian polity.

To their credit, The Patriots, in their even-handedness applied to the president the same method and criteria they had used to secure the trust and the support of both the press and the legislature. They had recognized the president's right to seek for a second term of office under our present constitution. But they had suggested to him as they did to the other stakeholders in the present imbroglio to consider the more important stake of national unity as well as the lasting interest of the nation and act accordingly. In other words, The Patriots are urging the president to be a patriot and sacrifice his constitutional right of seeking for a re-election in order to calm frayed nerves and cool down the overheated polity. In every democracy people are always urged to sacrifice their personal rights from time to time for the public good and for the survival of the collective enterprise. That is what The Patriots are asking the president to do at this very critical time in our history. Nigeria needs leaders now who are willing to make sacrifices to save the nation. Nigeria needs patriotic politicians. And patriots make sacrifices out of their personal rights.

However where one could suspect that the president might legitimately think that The Patriots were trying to force his hands is the fact that they had encouraged the House and the Senate to expedite their efforts to amend the constitution and enshrine the five-year single term of office for the president and the governors that would be binding even on the current occupants of Aso Villa and the respective governors' mansions of the states. The president might legitimately interpret this to imply that The Patriots are working with the Senate and the House to signal to him that whether he liked it or not he would have to serve for one single term either way. If he would not choose it by himself to opt for one term then the legislature would have to find a way to impose it on him through the amendment of the constitution.

But I do not think this should be the correct reading of The Patriots' wonderful initiative by anybody who has the interest of Nigeria at heart. After all, Obasanjo's own constitutional review panel led by the former governor of Cross River State, Clement Ebri had come down with a five-year single term on all Nigerian presidents and governors long before The Patriots and the legislature would take up the proposal. Obasanjo has not been known to raise any objection to the proposal of the Ebri constitutional review panel. His silence had implied that he might be tending towards adopting the panel's proposal as his him. Is the president being furious now with The Patriots because they are trying to make the single term of office binding on him as well? Do we understand the president's objective to be; after he had secured his second term of office that would garner him an aggregate of eight years in office then he would amend the constitution for those after him to serve a single term of five years? If this happens to be his thinking, then his patriotism and sincerity as a leader must come under a very serious question.

But it has been absolutely strange the way the president and his cronies have been reacting to the noble initiatives of The Patriots. One cannot but ask what their interest is in a paralyzed nation? What are they benefiting from the present political chaos that has engulfed our nation? What sacrifices are they willing to make to achieve peace and stability in Nigeria? In other words, how patriotic are they? A patriot is one who is able to put his national interest above his self-interest. In 1979 Obasanjo presented himself to Nigerians and the entire world as one of our pre-eminent patriots when he voluntarily turned political power over to an elected civilian administration after a brief stint as Nigeria's military head of state. With that he entered into the pantheon of Nigeria's venerable past leaders. Will he ever be able to reclaim that moral high ground again? Or is he going to use his second adventure in Nigeria's political leadership to squander and destroy all he had worked for and achieved in the 70's as a military head of state? In other words, will Obasanjo be able to prove himself once again as a patriot especially now that the occasion has called for it?

According to The Guardian, Obasanjo's government's reaction to the initiative of The Patriots was "fast and furious …rather than heed The Patriots' call on President Olusegun Obasanjo to abandon his re-election bid, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) has said it would strictly be guided on the matter by the constitution, which vests the power in the electorate through the ballot box." Speaking on behalf of the so-called Federal Executive Council, Jerry Gana, the Minister of Information and National Orientation described the "advice (of The Patriots) as unnecessary, uncalled for and unconstitutional" (Guardian, Oct 17). Jerry Gana declared the patriots' initiative as "unfair to the president and his administration…. This is because" according to him "The Patriots know that the constitution of Nigeria as of now provides for that (second term)" (Daily Trust, Oct 17). The minister exclaimed: "Why are people afraid of elections? According to him, "The Nigerian electorate should be allowed freedom of choice. The legal right and the constitutional right of every Nigerian to present him or herself before the electorate should not be violated. I believe that we should, as it were, work towards a free and fair election. Allow the people who are the repository of political power to decide" (Daily Trust, Oct 17). Closing Gana said, "the Constitution of Nigeria, until amended and proactive, allows Nigerians to go for second term. That's the Constitution and we will go by the Constitution because we are law-abiding." Obasanjo and Gana his spokesman seem to garner some support among the Yoruba Council of Elders who through their secretary, Justice Adewale Thompson described The Patriots' initiative as "unacceptable and ultra vires." According to Thompson, the recommendation of The Patriots "is equal to the ridiculous exercise of amending the rules of football match after the game had started in order to placate warring soccer hooligans, who ought to be arrested and detained" (Guardian Oct 17).

It is very intriguing to read the reactions and arguments of those who are trying to debunk the wonderful initiative of the elder statesmen, which has the potential of resolving the current crisis as well as restoring sanity and stability in the Nigerian polity. But first, if what the Obasanjo FEC gathers to do is to discuss and campaign for a second term of office for the president, it is in fact the more reason why the present administration does not deserve a second term of office. They are a bunch of people who should not be doing the business of Nigeria. In America such a discussion in a Federal Executive Council would almost amount to a criminal offense. You do not conduct your campaign or solicit support for your political candidacy in a government facility. Executive council meetings are meant to brainstorm on potential solutions for the people's problems. It is not a place to discuss the political future of a political candidate. The issue of the president's second-term bid is a problem only to Obasanjo and his political advisers and not to FEC, which must concern itself with the deteriorating situation of Nigeria. The FEC is never for decisions on the incumbent/s political future. What the Obasanjo FEC had done is a potential abuse of office. Nigeria is showing itself as a very strange country and Obasanjo is really pushing the envelope of Nigeria's absurdity to the ridiculous. That a paid minister of the Federal Government could come out so openly to campaign for the second term of the president in a government facility shows how disoriented our country and the minister of orientation are.

But let us take their contentions one after the other. First Obasanjo's campaign committee that masquerades as members of the Federal Executive Council declared after their meeting that they would be guided on the matter raised by The Patriots with the constitution, which "vests the ultimate power in the electorate through the ballot box." Our reaction to this proposal is simply, fine! If the Obasanjo campaign members would love to play the game of the constitution, then the legislature must be allowed to discharge fully its constitutional obligation of seeing through to the end their constitutional obligation with the impeachment of the president. It is not only Obasanjo and his campaigners who can play the game of the constitution. The constitution does not only provide for elections and second terms. It also provides for impeachment and removal from office of an elected president. If Obasanjo must pursue re-election in defiance of the wonderful suggestions of The Patriots, the legislature must pursue impeachment in obedience to its constitutional obligations. This is fair.

I think The Patriots are light years wiser than those who gather to campaign for the president's second term of office as the so-called FEC members. The Patriots are asking everybody to be patriotic, to consider the overall good of the nation which may entail not pressing one's constitutional rights to their logical ends. They are asking everybody to sacrifice something to douse the heat of the polity and ensure stability in the nation. To be patriotic is to be able to sacrifice something for the welfare of your country. As John Fitzgerald Kennedy was quoted as saying at his inaugural as America's president: ask not for what your country can do for you, ask for what you can do for your country. That is patriotism defined. It seems that the Obasanjo clan are only interested in milking their constitutional rights dry. To do that is not patriotic. They are only asking for what Nigeria could do for them, period!

Second, Jerry Gana uses a few strange words to describe The Patriots' initiative. According to him, the initiative is


It is inconceivable how Gana could employ these words to describe the initiative of those eminent Nigerians. One hopes that this minister understands the meaning of the words he is using. It is simply because the situation has become all these Gana is denying that the members of The Patriots stepped forward with their initiative. Their initiative is absolutely necessary because the Obasanjo administration had become virtually paralyzed in its face-off with the legislature. Almost nothing is getting done amidst Obasanjo's war without end with the legislature. Since August the government has become completely pre-occupied with fending off impeachment moves while other aspects of the government activities have been suffering. In his fear of impeachment, the president of Nigeria has almost become a lame duck. That is what made the initiative necessary. Somebody had to step forward to separate the executive that has been tangled with the legislature for months. The paralysis of the government called for the action of The Patriots. They have acted as patriotic Nigerians who are offended by the current situation of our government. As stakeholders they have acted in good and patriotic faith to chart a way forward for our stagnant government.

It is absolutely disingenuous for Jerry Gana to deny that the action of The Patriots is called for. It is also pitiful for him to think that the initiative of the Patriots contradicts the constitution. This is patently false and annoyingly pitiful. The Nigerian constitution currently in operation guarantees freedom of expression and association. The Patriots were exercising their constitutional right when they suggested to the president to reconsider his bid for a second term of office. Nowhere is it in the constitution currently in force in Nigeria that the president is under a mandate to seek for a second term of office. His decision to seek a second term is a right, which he is in no obligation to exercise. A second term-bid is a constitutional right but not a birthright. If it is found, as is perhaps the case right now, that his exercising his constitutional right to seek a second term will implode the nation, the president is well advised and morally obliged to sacrifice his right and drop his bid. People like Jerry Gana do not read the Nigerian constitution well. How could he say that The Patriots acted unconstitutionally by urging the president not to seek a second term of office? He is either ignorant of the constitution whose principal spokesperson he is supposed to be or he is simply not up to his job.

Gana describes the action of The Patriots as "unfair to the president and his administration." But we say, how? How is the initiative unfair to the president and his administration? It is just a suggestion, which the president is at liberty to consider or not. Granted that a suggestion like that may cost him politically, it has absolutely nothing to do with fairness to him. Moreover how does a suggestion made to the president translate into an unfairness done to the members of his administration? The president is the only elected member of the executive. He is the one whose electoral fate is in jeopardy with the initiative and not the members of the administration who are political appointees and glorified civil servants. One would in fact think that The Patriots are doing a huge favor to the president. They are creating a leeway for him to leave the stage honorably. Probably Gana does not take into account that the constitution equally provides that his master could be impeached and disgraced out of office. If the legislature wants to pursue that angle they will in fact be acting constitutionally and fairly towards the president and the members of his administration.

The whole situation that gave rise to the initiative of The Patriots is all about fairness to the Nigerian nation and peoples. Like all patriotic Nigerians The Patriots are grappling with the problem of finding out what could help cool down the overheated Nigerian polity. They are seeking for what could move Nigeria forward and create the condition for the government to begin to tackle the scandalous sufferings and poverty of our people. Contrary to the insinuations of Jerry Gana President Obasanjo is not the victim here. It is the Nigerian people that are suffering because of the current stalemate in our government who are the only victim of this political crisis. Nigerian population needs 100% of the president's attention. But that is not happening. The terrible distraction in the polity as a result of the standoff between him and the legislature has sapped all attention away from the problem of our people. The likes of Gana appear very selfish when they think that what is paramount in the present political crisis is the welfare of Obasanjo and the members of his cabinet. What is absolutely paramount now is what can best move the country forward. What is it that could happen in our government that could facilitate our living in peace and unity so as to pursue the welfare of our people with all attention? This is only what is at stake. And this is behind the initiative. The Patriots have judged that it is only by bringing about justice in our politics that Nigeria could have peace and unity again. This arrangement will obviously entail that people like Obasanjo sacrifice a little bit of their personal ambitions. And that is where patriotism comes in. Obasanjo cannot be truly a patriot if he insists on milking his constitutional right dry even to the extent of conflagrating the Nigerian political system.

Another hollow argument of Jerry Gana is that which he bases on elections. According to him, our people's right to elect their leaders should not be violated. I cannot agree more with him. The whole project of a democracy is consummated through periodic elections. There cannot be a democracy without competitive elections pitting people from different ideological persuasions. I think The Patriots with their initiative are giving similar sermons about democracy and elections. However, the confusion in the head of Gana seems to manifest very clearly when he screams: "why are people afraid of elections?" By this he implied that The Patriots' initiative had been as a result of their fear of elections. But this is absolutely ridiculous. His argument in this regard makes no sense at all. The Patriots did not suggest that we abandon elections in their suggestion of a single term of office for Obasanjo. If anything they are suggesting ways to make our elections less contentious, fairer and more just for all sections of our people. No one knows where Gana got the argument that if Obasanjo is precluded from running for a second term, then there is will be no more elections, or that people are going to be deprived of their electoral rights. The Patriots believe and truly so that if a sense of belonging is given to all geographical zones in our country through a more just political process, there will be more enthusiasm for our elections. But the likes of Gana and his master think that bringing about more justice to our electoral process will deny people their electoral rights. What a strange way of thinking!

Moreover, Jerry Gana and his master tend to forget that we are not strangers to Nigerian elections. We have been witnesses to several elections in Nigeria which all went the way predetermined by the incumbents. We understand their code when they insist that they want their fate to be decided by the electorate. We know that such is not a patriotic statement that it appears to be. By the Nigerian electorate we know that a Nigerian incumbent means a phantom electorate manufactured in the pre-stuffed ballot boxes, pre-marked electoral result sheets and over inflected electoral numbers. It is all these problems that most patriotic Nigerians like The Patriots are trying to overcome. By insisting on a single term and a rotational presidency they are trying to figure out how to remove the temptation for the incumbents to rig the election and perpetuate themselves in office. That is what this initiative is all about.

Moreover, Why is the government now clamoring for elections as the sole basis of our political success? Why have elections become the absolute arbiter in a country that has never known any successful civilian elections in of her forty-two years of history? Why is Obasanjo confident that he will win again after having performed horrendously in his first term? Of course the answer is obvious. Shehu Shagari had the same confidence and saw it to fruition with his massive rigging of the election of 1983. And his selfishness in this regard set Nigeria more than fifty backwards and unleashed the dictatorial monsters of our nation in the persons of Muhammadu Buhari, Tunde Idiagbon, Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha. When Nigerian incumbents sound confident about elections we know that they have perfected their acts of rigging them to their favor. There can hardly be any other source for the president's confidence in the polls other than his determination to rig his way back to office. That is the Nigerian electoral culture, which we know too well. The only way to bury this shameful culture once and for all is to enshrine a single term of a rotational presidency among the six geo-political zones in the Nigerian constitution. You and I know this to be the simple truth of the matter. Why are we beating about the bush?

In our view, The Patriots have vindicated their appropriation to themselves of this noble title of patriotism. They are indeed the true patriots of Nigeria. They have proved themselves to be patriotic individuals who have the good of a peaceful united Nigeria at heart. There is absolutely no doubt their initiative if carried out will help cool down our overheated polity. They have acted with sincerity in diagnosing what could bring about lasting stability in the nation. We commend them for their patriotism. Along the same line, we commend the press and the legislature that have all but embraced the wonderful initiative of The Patriots.

However, we eagerly await the president of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo to rise up to the present challenges of patriotism. He had done so before in 1979 when he peacefully turned power over to Shehu Shagari after a successful democratic election. But another opportunity is knocking at his door. He is now being challenged to either renew his patriotic credentials or destroy them forever. We are confident that he will make the right choice of remaining a patriot whose icons will be revered in the political pantheons of Nigeria.